Saturday, May 21, 2011

“M” Is for Freezing Mulberries

Mulberries are one of Earth’s little treasures. Not only do they taste wonderful right of the tree but they are actually good for you. They are a good source of antioxidants, nature’s little workhorses that help protect body cells from the damaging effects of oxidation. They also provide anthocyanin, beta-carotene, calcium, carbohydrate, dietary fiber, fatty acids, iron, magnesium, malic Acid, phosphorus, potassium, protein, and resveratrol, Vitamin B, Vitamin C and Vitamin K.
Now that you know they taste good and they are good for you, you probably want to know what to do with them. Well, they can be used in any of your favorite recipes in place of other berries. Just substitute equal part mulberries for whatever your original recipe calls for and you’re in business.
I picked the first batch of mulberries today from the five year old tree in my back yard. It is the first time the tree has produced and I am pleased with the harvest. I got a little less than 1 quart of berries from the first picking and will return again over the coming days and weeks.

This first batch is going into the freezer. I like to have a variety of berries on hand throughout the year for different things. Mulberries can be frozen like any other berries.
A thought about the stems: When mulberries are picked, their tiny green stem comes with them. There is no way around that. Whether to leave them on or remove them is a matter of personal preference. The stems are edible and really have no taste. Removing them by hand often results in most of the berries being mashed. This isn’t a problem if you plan to make jam, jelly or something of that nature. If you want them in a pie or muffins though, you may want to remove the stems. Get a brand new pair of nail clippers and simply clip the stems off. It is time consuming but gets the job done while leaving the berries intact. It is my personal belief that the business of removing stems is one reason mulberries are not sold in the grocery stores. It is probably too expensive to pay someone to remove the stems.
Once you have resolved the stem issue, rinse the berries. Make a solution that is 1 quart tap water and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. The vinegar helps remove any impurities, including tiny insects that might be lurking in the berries. Repeat the process several times, rinsing with just water the last time. Let the berries rest in a colander for ten minutes to remove all the excess water.
Spread the mulberries on a baking sheet with a lip. The berries should be in a single layer and not resting on top of one another. Place the pan in the freezer on a level surface for about 10 to 12 hours. The berries will be frozen solid but will not be suck to one another. Putting all the fresh berries in a freezer bag and tossing them in the freezer will work but will result in one giant block of frozen berries. You would not be able to remove just a few at a time. By freezing them on the pan, you can then pour them into labeled freezer bags, seal and store for six months. When you need just 1 cup for a muffin recipe, simply open the bag and scoop out what you need. This method works for most berries.
Muffins, pancakes, coffee cakes, cobblers, crisps and crumbles are all wonderful with mulberries. I like to add them to my smoothie recipe too. That makes a wonderfully refreshing and healthy cold drink on a hot summer day.
If you want to know more about growing your own mulberry trees, see the posts on my Fruit, Nut and Ornamental Trees 101 blog: Growing Mulberry Trees and Mulberries Fruiting Now.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

“U” Is for U-Picks

U-Picks are usually family run farms that allow members of the general public to come in and pick their own fruits and vegetables for a fee. Many offer their wares, already picked by others, at a somewhat higher fee.
The benefits of getting your produce from a u-pick are many. There is the benefit of supporting a local farmer and helping your local economy, always a good thing in my book. Then there’s the benefit of seeing where the product was grown, being able to ask questions about how it was grown and the sheer pleasure of the hunt as you forage through the leaves searching for that perfect berry or apple.
You can pick your fruits and vegetables at the peak of ripeness, directly from the plant and rush home to can, freeze or dehydrate it. How much fresher can you get? Naturally, you should buy enough so that you can enjoy some fresh, too!
Another important benefit of u-picks is that you can get fruits and vegetables that you might not be able to grow on your own. A blueberry farm for example needs very acidic soil, something most plants don’t like. In order to grow enough blueberries, that would all ripen at the same time so that you could preserve enough for your family, you would need a large area of acidic soil. Depending on where you live, this is probably not practical. If it is, you probably can’t grow much of anything else. Buying from a u-pick lets you grow what you can and buy what you can’t. It’s the best of both worlds.
What kinds of products can you find? Mostly fruits like blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. Apples, peaches and pears are also common. Pumpkins and squash are common in the fall. Some areas are blessed with a wider assortment of choices. How do you find them? helps people find u-picks in their area. It is organized by state, then by county.
Take some time to get familiar with what’s available in your area, the season in which it will be ripe and available to pick and start planning your food preservation schedule now.

Circle 8 Anthologies Featuring my Short Stories

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | JCpenney Printable Coupons